The Hurry-Up is your nightly dose of updates from the Ohio State football recruiting trail, keeping tabs on the latest from commits and targets from around the country.
McCullough a priority
When Dasan McCullough announced two weeks ago – on April 21 – that he had been extended an offer from Ohio State, a Crystal Ball prediction was instantly dropped, from our own Andrew Ellis, for the Blue Valley North (Kansas) four-star athlete to choose the Buckeyes over nearly 40 other options.
That list includes a lot of the usual suspects, like Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Georgia, LSU, Michigan, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Oregon, Penn State, Texas and USC.
But the main reason McCullough – the 73rd-ranked overall player and eighth-ranked athlete in the 2022 class – is a good candidate to end up with the Buckeyes? Just like his fellow top 125-ranked sophomore Jyaire Brown, who was born in Cincinnati, McCullough has a strong connection to the state.
“I have a lot of ties to Ohio, due to me being born and raised there. My whole family is from Ohio,” McCullough told Eleven Warriors.
McCullough’s father, Deland McCullough, was a star running back at Miami (Ohio), who ranks second on the school’s all-time rushing yards list (4,368 yards) before moving onto the NFL and CFL, and he is now the running backs coach for the Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs. And McCullough’s brother, Deland, is a cornerback for the RedHawks who redshirted in 2019.
The youngest McCullough’s Ohio ties are a great foot in the door for the Buckeyes, but pushing that door open further are his relationships with the staff.
“I have been in contact with Ohio State for a couple months,” McCullough said. “I started off by building a relationship with Coach Al Washington. and our relationship was great from the start and have been talking football ever since.
“I’m getting closer and closer with Coach Washington, and I have known Coach (Kevin) Wilson for about seven or eight years. My first impression was that they are great people that are very honest with me – the whole staff.”
McCullough, a 6-foot-4, 210-pound star, is from the same city – Olathe, Kansas – that produced Clemson star Isaiah Simmons. And just like Simmons, McCullough is able to do a multitude of things.
In December, Washington detailed to Eleven Warriors the types of Sam linebackers that he and the program are targeting in recruiting. Offenses are continuing to put defenses in tougher situations with spread looks and can, in Washington’s term, use “tight end hybrids” with guys who are big-bodied, athletic pass-catchers who can line up at the end of the offensive line, in the slot or even out wide.
“I think their ability to play on the perimeter and in the box forces defenses to have to match up with them,” said Washington, then detailing how the Buckeyes’ Sam linebacker targets can counteract that. “Sam is a position where you can play the overhang. Can play on the edge and blitz at a nine-technique. The ability to rush the passer falls in there. Can he cover? Can he walk out and cover the slot? Can he blitz? Usually, on the field that’s what we look for.”
Those are the types of attributes McCullough possesses. He’s strong and powerful enough that he can match up with tight ends and shed blocks, is a willing tackler not afraid to lay a hit down, has the speed to blitz off the edge, and his safety-like foot quickness and speed allows him to cover slot receivers.
Those traits are what make McCullough so valuable, and that skillset is exactly why Ohio State has made him an early priority target in 2022.
Linebacker will be one of Ohio State’s biggest positions of need in the 2022 cycle after not needing to target the position as heavily in the past two classes. Three is the likeliest number the Buckeyes are shooting for to bring into the 2022 class.
The Buckeyes’ starting linebacker core and their depth at the position will be gone after the next two seasons. Juniors Teradja Mitchell, K'Vaughan Pope and Dallas Gant are waiting in the wings after the final seasons of eligibility for Baron Browning, Pete Werner, Tuf Borland and Justin Hilliard are used up following the 2020 season. After that, the room gets much thinner, as 2020 linebackers Mitchell Melton and Kourt Williams II might be shifted around on the defense – Melton possibly ending up with his hand in the dirt as a defensive end; Williams as a linebacker/safety hybrid.
But the program is hopeful it can fulfill that need by getting two top-tier in-state guys who have felt like they would be Buckeyes since the day they were offered (C.J. Hicks, who committed on Friday, and Gabe Powers), and perhaps another native Ohioan will be the third.
If that does happen, however, it is likely to play out slower than the recruitments of Brown and Hicks – who each committed very soon after getting their offers from Ohio State (Brown silently committing less than five days after receiving his; Hicks silently committing 20 days after receiving his).
“I would like to make a decision before my senior year,” McCullough said. “Jyaire and I are pretty good friends. We are both from Cincinnati. But seeing people commit early doesn’t exactly rush me, but it makes me keep my ears open for sure.”
Buckeyes scooting past 2020 class
Ohio State’s 2020 recruiting class might have been a bit top-heavy, but the Buckeyes finished ranked No. 5 in the country with an impressive overall haul of 25 commitments.
But the 2021 class is going to rocket past that group in the rankings. As we had mentioned briefly on Friday, the 247Sports composite rankings were set for an update. That happened this week, and after a few players received bumps, the Buckeyes’ 2021 class is now ranked higher than the 2020 class with eight fewer commitments.
Ohio State’s No. 5-ranked 2020 class with 25 commitments: 295.08 points
Ohio State’s No. 1-ranked 2021 class with 17 commitments: 295.41 points
As with any rankings update, this one coming after ESPN’s latest rankings were released last week, guys shifted up and down minimally. But the main two bumps to thank for Ohio State’s points boost are Jantzen Dunn going from No. 248 overall to No. 207 and Mike Hall jumping from No. 93 to No. 74.
Other notable moves in the top 100:
- JC Latham, jumping from No. 36 to No. 16.
- TreVeyon Henderson, dropping one spot down overall but re-earning the No. 1 spot at running back with the three-spot fall of Camar Wheaton.
- Damon Payne, jumping from No. 26 to No. 17.
Top QB Williams pushes Penn State, Clemson off list
Washington D.C.’s Caleb Williams, the five-star prospect ranked No. 5 overall in the country, released his top-five list in April. On Monday, the top-ranked junior quarterback trimmed his list down to three, knocking off Penn State and Clemson from the list.
That’s pretty major news for Ohio State, if it doesn’t have to deal with him down the line in Happy Valley for two or three seasons. Not a major surprise, though, that he left Clemson off the list as the Tigers already have DJ Uiagalelei in the 2020 class, and having another young five-star player in the fold may have made an impact on Williams.
Dasan McCullough photo courtesy of Mike Roach/247Sports